My wife watched me put together my taco -- cheese, meat, lettuce, onions, sauce, cheese, cheese, cheese. "Isn't that a little too much cheese?" she asked. "I'm not sure there's such a thing," I quipped.
But I'm talking now about the gospel. We know what it is, right? Right? I mean, we've heard it, haven't we? We've preached it (Mark 16:15), haven't we? Enough? Too much? Is there such a thing?
The word "gospel" first appears in our English Bibles in Matthew 4:23.
And He (Jesus) went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.
In the New Testament in the ESV the word appears 97 times -- 104 in the King James. In the Literal Translation of the Holy Bible (LITV) it is 121 times. The number isn't significant except that it is numerous in all translations. It refers to "good news". And we are commanded to share it. And, look, if it is "good news," why wouldn't we? Do we not want to share good news with any and everyone we can? Well, apparently not.
So, what is this "gospel," this "good news" so good that the concept is repeated so many times in the New Testament as to almost seem annoying -- "too much"? It is not "your best life now," "I'm okay; you're okay," or any of the other common niceties passed around. It is something else entirely. It is not about your present comfort or pleasure. It is something much more.
Paul wrote, "Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you -- unless you believed in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:1-2). So this should be good. What is the gospel Paul preached?
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared also to me. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
"First importance," Paul says, is the crucifixion, burial, and bodily resurrection of Christ, complete with verifiable witnesses. The good news. Here it is. Jesus Christ, the "form of God" (Philippians 2:6), cloaked His form and was sent by God the Father to be born (Luke 1:35), to live the only sinless life ever (2 Corinthians 5:21), to die for sins (1 Corinthians 15:3), to be buried (1 Corinthians 15:4), and to literally rise again (1 Corinthians 15:4) so that sinners (Romans 3:23) could die with Him and rise again to new life (Romans 6:8; 2 Timothy 2:11), absolved of sin (Romans 8:1), filled with righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21) and empowered by Him (Philippians 2:13). We will, when we die, be with Him (2 Corinthians 5:8) eternally. Bottom line, the gospel is all about what Christ has done to address our fatal sin problem to make us right with God in Christ, the "author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2) -- Christ, first and last.
That's the gospel. It's really, really big. But, tell the truth -- did you, perhaps, find it a little ... boring? You know, "Been there, heard that." Does that "old, old story" get old? Is there such a thing as "too much gospel"?
If you have to admit that, even if you weren't bored by it, you weren't excited by it either, you (and I) might have a problem. We have a problem with grace. We have a problem with mercy. We don't see the depth of our own depravity, the distance we've fallen short of God's glory, or the supreme length Christ went to resolve that problem and the heights to which we are taken. We're not that bad and He's not that good ... although you and I clearly both that we arethat bad and He is that good. The problem, then, is not "too much gospel," but that we miss the vastness and grandeur of it because of our sin condition. There is no such thing as "too much gospel". In the end, there cannot be too much. In the end we ought to be constantly immersed in it, constantly reminded of it, constantly telling and reminding others of it.
Consider this. Our common term for accepting the gospel is we are "saved." What do we mean? If I told you, "I was at the beach and caught in a riptide and the lifeguard saved me," would you think, "How? Did he preach the gospel to you?" No, of course not. You would think that he pulled me out of a bad situation. But when we think about being "saved" by the gospel, do we think of it that way? Usually not. Usually it's just another word for "relationship with Jesus" without thinking from what we've been saved. We don't think of the peril we were in and we don't recognize the magnificence of the gospel. We don't understand the magnitude of being saved. We have, in some sense, "too little gospel."
I don't want you to get the wrong impression. I'm not preaching to you; I'm talking to myself. I'm good at "too much" cheese, but not so good at "too much" (or even "enough") gospel. We all know people who are going to hell. They are family and friends, neighbors and coworkers, atheists and church-goers, practitioners of same-sex sex and heterosexual sex, nice people and not-so-nice -- everyday folk on all sides -- who are going to hell. If you and I are among the few (Jesus's word (Matthew 7:14), not mine) who are on the way to heaven, we have an obligation to provide "too much gospel" for others. There are many who need it often. And it's not like the saved don't need it anymore; we need it repeatedly as well. It is "of first importance." It is life.
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